#889 The sound of a solid crack from a good break in billiards

You can just hear it

I am a terrible pool player.

Yet, despite this, whenever someone at a bar asks me to play against them or be their partner, I’m like sure, yeah, I’m totally in.

I mean, I’m having a good time, I’m in a good mood, so I sort of tipsily swagger over to the cue rack on the wall and pretend to be sizing them up. “Oh man, all the good ones are gone,” I always say extremely loudly, my eyes darting around at the other players with a sad little “Yeah, it’s true,” head nod, being careful to plant seeds of disappointment early so nobody expects me to actually sink a ball.

Chalk that cue

After that, I begin a desperate search for chalk. “Gotta have some chalk, gotta have some chalk,” I’ll mumble, as I walk in circles around the pool table, looking underneath it and in all the pockets until I find some. And when I do, I really go to town. Honestly, I rub my pool cue in that chalk and twist it around tightly, and then I flare the edges to cover up all the missed spots.

If all goes according to plan, I’ll keep chalking my cue until somebody breaks. The goal here is to avoid eye contact until the game starts, because otherwise I might be asked to break, and that’s never a pretty sight.

No, the four or five times I’ve foolishly agreed to kick-off the game end up embarrassing everyone involved. I’ll generally skid the cue off the side of the cueball, sending it wildly spinning directly into a side pocket. Or I’ll get under the ball by accident and send it flying across the bar, where it’ll softly roll up against the boot of some pony-tailed, tattooed biker dude, who will then shoot me a cold, piercing stare and begin punching his fist into his palm.

8-ballNo, it’s better for everyone if I avoid the break. Frankly, I shouldn’t even be playing.

But what I will do if I can is peek up from my obsessive chalking just before the break, so I can watch the break, because I love the break, because the break is great. I mean, it’s an explosive crack that rises above the background bar buzz, and captures everyone’s attention as the balls fly in all directions.

Yes, the sound of a solid crack from a good break in billiards is the sound of a good fifteen to twenty minutes of fun getting started. And it’s the sound of people enjoying themselves with a couple of drinks, some good friends, and a great night.

And that sounds a lot like


Even that girl playing on the chair is better than me

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#890 Really, really tall people

You can just feel that back pain

They’re tall and there’s nothing they can do about it except learn to live with their crazy tallness. For this reason, we respect them and think they’re cool.

If you’re really, really tall, you feel it, because this is your life:

Everyone hates you at movies and concerts. Sure, you get a decent sightline, but at what price? Everybody in the room resents you and you have to put up with constant shuffling behind you and people saying things like “Oh great, I’m stuck behind Stilts here.”

Guaranteed back pain. Duck into a car and lean over to tie your shoes enough times and you’ll eventually score some sharp, shooting pains in that lower lumbar.

Hard to date people. Well, not hard, but complicated. I mean, would you date someone really, really tall? If not, you see the problem here.

Size 'em up You are forced to play basketball. Doesn’t matter if you like it, doesn’t matter if you don’t — you just have to play. Also, if you’re no good, you’ll never hear the end of it, and if you are good, people will say it’s just because you’re really, really tall.

People always want you to get stuff from the top shelf. And guess what else you get when you pull down that giant soup pot nobody’s used in two years? That’s right: a big faceful of dust, that’s what. Hope you’re not allergic.

You’re always hitting your head on everything. If you’re really, really tall, you know what I mean, because your skull is full of spider cracks from chandeliers, basement stairwells, and overhead bins on airplanes.

Life is more expensive. Because raiseable desks, extra-long pants, and King-sized mattresses aren’t cheap, bro. You know that and I know that.

It really is a tough life.

So next time you see a really, really tall person, break out the empathy. Remember: they’re tall and there’s nothing they can do except learn to live with their crazy tallness. In this upside-down and inside-out world, that’s worth something. So throw them a smile and a nod, a solid high-ten, or just some quiet respect.



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#891 Bowling celebrations

Style points

Because let’s be honest: most people are pretty stinking awful at rolling a ball the size and weight of a human head perfectly straight down a sixty-foot lane. There are gutters on both sides, you’re slipping around in torn-up shoes that look like they’ve been through a war and a washing machine, and every time you go up for a toss you’re in the spotlight, up on stage, with critical eyes piercing holes in your back, watching your every move.

Yeah, it’s pressure all right.

But that’s what makes it so great when you do finally pick up that perfect spare or hit a big ten-pen knockdown in the final frame. Because that’s when it’s time for a bowling celebration — ideally featuring several of the following:

1. The Stage Dance. Hey, you’re up on stage so why not throw out a couple of moves? Perhaps the famous Hulk Hogan ear-cup, the invisible hula-hoop, or the Tiger Woods fist-pump? If all else fails you can do the moonwalk back down to your seat. Not a terrible choice.

2. The Celebrity. Pretty self-explanatory. The paparazzi loves you and you love them back, only without the paparazzi.

You love them back

3. The All-Business Around-The-World High Five. This can happen when you have around ten hands to slap. There are just so many hands — so your eyes narrow, your eyebrows crunch, and your tongue fixes itself on your top lip as you focus on nailing every single high five offered to you. You don’t miss a slap. Yes, you’re all business around the world.

4. The Overly Exaggerated Jump. Always a fan-favorite. But watch out for that greasy floor and those all-skid shoes.

5. The Friendly Stranger. This is where a casual stranger who has been keeping a passive eye on your game suddenly leaves his lane and jumps into your bowling celebration. The Friendly Stranger can be awkward, but it does give your sweet roll some extra lane cred.

Now, whatever your style, it’s important to remember that once you hit down some pins, it’s all about the bowling celebration. You can do no wrong at this point, so just relax and do a little dance. Make a little love. And get down tonight.

Get down tonight.


Hulkamania running wild all over Leisure Lanes 10-Pin Saturday Night Rock n' Bowl

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#892 Taking your shoes and socks off after a really long day

Get the TV set to Barney

Cold, wet, and clammy.

That pretty much sums up the state my feet are in after walking around in thin, sweaty socks and tight shoes all day. They’re aching and sore and full of flattened toe hair, crispy corns, and dry, flaky skin. Yeah, it’s a real horror show in the hallway every night when I get home from a really long day.

But how does it feel when you do finally let those feet out, air them out, stretch them out, and just throw them up on the couch and flick on the TV?

Wait, don’t tell me.


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#893 Orange slices at half-time

Urkel could pull it off -- me, not really

When I was six years old my math skills suddenly took a steep tumble, so my parents whisked me off to the eye doctor who twiddled a bunch of knobs and eventually concluded that this L’il Squinter couldn’t see the blackboard. Unfortunately, instead of asking me to drink a glass of carrot juice every morning or just sit closer to the front of the class, he wrote me a prescription for some thick Coke-bottle glasses and sent me on my way.

Being the only kid in first grade who wore glasses was no fun. I was Four Eyes, Dr. Spectacles, and Blindy, all in one recess.

To make matters worse, they didn’t make too many glasses frames for kids in those days. Maybe it’s different now, but at the time the store only had one pair that fit me — a thick, red plastic set that had to be held around my head with a black elastic band. Yeah, it’s true: not only was I cursed with Blurry Eyes but I had a side case of Pin Head, too. It was embarrassing arriving to school looking like Steve Urkel, only without the spunk or sassiness.

Anyway, it didn’t take long for those glasses to become the bane of my existence.

I broke them about once a week.

I fell off someone’s back in the schoolyard, crashed into my sister running around the basement, and got pegged with snowballs on the way home from school. I ran into a fire pole on the playground, stepped on them getting out of bed, and left them sitting on couches and chairs around the house. Once I even broke them two days in a row. And it was the same story every time: I sheepishly appeared at dinner with my busted glasses on my face, thick wads of masking tape holding them together, and I sat through dinner until my parents very patiently took me back to the same glasses store later at night, to buy the same set of red, plastic frames, again and again and again.

Call it what you want. It hurts when you take one to the face.Now, my most painful memory of busting up my specs came during a house league football / soccer game. Almost everyone I knew played football / soccer as a kid — getting some exercise by joining historical local franchises such as Shisko’s Produce and A&R Auto Body, Est 1956.

It was in my first and only season, in the middle of a big playoff game, when I unceremoniously took a well-booted ball right in the middle of my face. My glasses cracked into two pieces, I fell to the ground and started crying, and as the play raced on without a whistle, I slowly got my drippy self together and blindly made it off the field. I held half of my glasses in each hand and wore a big, red circle on my face from the ball, like someone had set a frying pan down on me, accidentally mistaking my round, childlike features for a tightly-coiled stove burner.

What my face felt like

Well, I got to the sidelines and was met with bad news. Basically, the coach wouldn’t let me off the field. See, the problem was that our team was already short players and if I went off we’d be disqualified. Remember — this was the playoffs here. A free pizza party and a round of root beer floats was on the line. Nobody wanted the game to end.

So — completely blind, tears in my eyes, my bright red, well-smacked face on display for all to see, I stood in the corner of the field for the rest of the game, somehow helping our team avoid disqualification as well as victory.

Got me through my last game before retirement

It was tough.

I remember the only thing that got me through that terrible ordeal was my mom coming over and setting up a lawn chair beside me, popping open an old, Tupperware container, and giving me all the orange slices I wanted from the halftime stash.

And let me tell you, I loved me some half-time orange slices. They were like sweet, liquid energy, filling me with sugar and pep and turbo-charging me for the second half.

Now, my showing that day was pathetic and humiliating, I don’t deny that. And I’m sad to report that it finally forced me to hang up the cleats for good, retiring forever from the game I knew mildly.

But I still remember those orange slices, and my mom generously thiefing the entire container so I could make it through the game. So thanks, mom. And thanks, half-time orange slices. Because both of you are fully and completely


Many orange slices eaten while wearing them

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#894 When the only other person going up in the elevator is going to the same floor as you

lets-all-go-to-tenYou know how it is: you walk into the elevator, you press your button, and just as the door is about to fully close, a hand appears out of nowhere and pulls it back open. Then a stranger walks in and presses the same button you already pressed, going to the same floor you were already going. Now that’s luck, because after that brief ‘Are they following me?’ vibe passes, you get to zoom up the shaft at breakneck speed on a no-nonsense express ride to the top.


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#895 Getting something with actual handwriting on it in the mail

How good would it feel to see this in your mailbox?

Checking the mail can be a bit depressing.

Sometimes there isn’t anything in there. Nope, nothing at all. Just one big, empty mailbox telling the world that everybody forgot about you today.

Then again, the alternative is typically a fistful of bills and flyers. Someone’s selling air conditioners, your car payment’s due, and the pizza place down the street has a new crust. All nice to know, of course. Just kind of boring … kind of bland … kind of blah.

But that’s what makes it so great when something with actual handwriting on it turns up in the mail. Those little endangered parcels have something very special about them. For instance:

  • Feel that ink. If you’re lucky enough to score a full-on letter, you know how good it feels to hold that pen-scratched masterpiece. Both sides of the paper are all carved up, and it sort of crisps and crinkles in your hand. It’s got a certain texture to it that feels very real and honest — like the person who wrote it put a bit of themselves in that envelope and sent it over. If I was a tree, I like to think I’d be proud if my slaughtered, pulpy remains were used for a letter like that. Seriously, it would bring a tear to my leaf.
  • It smells. Sure, sometimes it may not smell too strong, but then there’s the occasional letter that has a whiff of hand cream or perfume on it. And really, anything’s better than the smell of mass-ironed printer ink, especially if the ink’s real cheap and powdery and flakes off in the paper folds. Then you get it on your pants and under your fingernails, and for what? So American Express could tell you about their new interest rate?
  • The Complete Package. When you get a handwritten letter in the mail, it’s got a whole different look and feel to it. It’s a complete package. It’s a wedding thank-you card in the small red envelope, with the perfectly placed stamp, and the translucent tissue paper. Or it’s the letter from your kid at camp, with the smeared pencil and mud stains on it. It’s licked shut real tight, there’s a spelling mistake in your address, and the letter is folded thick, causing the envelope to puff out at the seams.
  • There’s nothing like it. Because no two handwritten letters are really the same. You know whoever wrote it spent a lot more time scratching it out than you did reading it. And they wrote it just for you, in their personal handwriting, with their pen and paper, and they paid to mail it to you. I don’t care how small and cold your heart may be — you have to admit that’s pretty cool.

Of course, the biggest reason why getting something handwritten is great is because it’s just so darned rare. I mean, for most people, you’re more likely to see Halley’s Comet crash into Big Foot while he’s riding the Loch Ness Monster than to actually get a full-blown note from a friend.

So I say treasure those handwritten notes, when you get ’em, if you get ’em. And if you don’t, there’s a pretty easy way to start receiving them.

Man, just send a couple.


You have to read it right away

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#897 A pack of matches on the back of the toilet

Not gonna work

Air fresheners don’t work.

They just make the bathroom smell like someone cracked a bottle of Chanel 5 open like an egg and poured it on top of a hot and steamy garbage dump. Air fresheners don’t so much solve bathroom pollution as they do call attention to it.

And ceiling fans have another issue — basically, they work really, really slowly. You drop a plop in two minutes, they slowly and calmly breeze it away in twenty-five. I mean, if you’ve ever heard anyone ask “Is it safe to go in there yet?”, then there’s your proof.

Finally, don’t even get me started on opening a window. First off, depending on the weather outside, windows really freeze up or heat up the joint. Not great for the environment if your A/C has to kick into overdrive. Plus, somebody has to go around later and close that window back up. Too much maintenance, really.

Instant stink removal

Yes, there’s really only one failsafe way to get rid of the stink in a bathroom. Only one powerful weapon against the onslaught of toilet odor. Only one time-tested method to destinkify the can. And friends, that powerful weapon is … the simple match.

That’s right: a match is cheap, convenient, and effective. Light it up, blow it out, flush it away, and you’re laughing. And isn’t it comforting when you see one on your friend’s toilet when you need to slip away from the dinner party to ‘go wash your hands’?

That’s right. You’ve been there before, you’ve played the game. You’ve waged the wars, you’ve tamed the flame. And you realize that a pack of matches on the back of the toilet is just so simply


Now just blow it up and flush away the evidence

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#898 Playing old-school video games

If channel 3 doesn't work, try channel 4

[digg=http://digg.com/gaming_news/13_Best_Old_School_Video_Games] If you’ve ever enjoyed some lazy afternoons just sitting on the rug, passing greasy controllers around, and occasionally blowing into the business end of a Nintendo cartridge, then you know what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about the best old-school video games of all time. Here goes nothing:

13. Super Mario Bros 2. There are two kinds of people in this world: those who loved Mario 2 and those who hated it. If you hated it, you just couldn’t get past all the turnip-digging and carrot-tossing. If you loved it, you picked Princess, flew through all the levels, defeated all the egg-spitting ostrich bosses, dusted your palms together, and you called it a day. Of course, there was always that massive sense of disappointment when the end credits revealed that the entire game was just a dream Mario had one night. What a bummer.


12. Wolfenstein 3D. Wolfenstein really blew open the whole world of first-person shooters back in 1992. It was just you, a bunch of Nazis, and a maze of neverending hallways. Sounds scary, but you’d be fine as long as you ate enough turkey drumsticks before battling Robot Hitler. Mein leben!


11. Street Fighter 2. This game really evened the odds between the older brother, with the thick glasses and the calloused thumbs, and the kid sister, with the overalls and toothy aw-shucks grin. Because that kid sister, that Nintendo novice, that rookie who never played video games, well she could just go on a hot streak of straightup neverending E. Honda hundred-hand-slaps and there really wasn’t anything the older brother could do about it. Except possibly pull her hair until she started crying. Sorry, Nina.


10. Duck hunt. The great-great-grandfather of the Nintendo Wii would have to be Duck Hunt, where you used the plastic plugged-in gun to learn how to hunt. Now, who else walked right up the TV in frustration and killed every duck from two inches away? You practically had to when that invincible dog started laughing at you. There was no choice. Plus, how else could you train for clay shooting?


9. Bubble Bobble. An afternoon falling through the Bubble Bobble levels was like acid tripping for a six-year old. The music got wilder and wilder as you and a pal continuously slaughtered robots by suffocating them in your dangerous dinosaur-spewed bubbles and then eating their dead corpses which, after you popped them, magically turned into shiny pieces of fruit. Somehow this all made sense, too. We must’ve been high on Pixy Stix.


8. Pong. Distributed exclusively by Sears for $100 a pop during the 1975 Christmas season, Pong eventually burned its way into hearts and television screens across the world.


7. Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. Before rape, prison, and facial tattoos, Mike Tyson starred in an animated game for children. You played as Little Mac and worked your way up the circuit by pummeling boxers like Glass Joe, Bald Bull, Mr. Sandman, and eventually Mike Tyson himself. The characters were great and Mario even moonlighted as the referee here, once again showing his tremendous versatility and athleticism.


6. Sonic The Hedgehog. Sonic was a great game to play when you went over to your friend’s house and they had Sega instead of Nintendo. Why did they have Sega instead of Nintendo? Well, it was either for the sports games or the blood in Mortal Kombat, one of the two.


5. Tetris. If you were lucky, you could get away with telling your parents that Tetris was educational. It certainly looked like it was too, with all that falling geometry and the Kremlin backdrops. Though no one could really prove it, there sure was something suspiciously mathy about it. Of course, the greatest thing about Tetris was that you could just blame the game when you died. Those random shapes turned us all into hollow-eyed fatalists, left staring blankly into the television, shaking our heads and saying “I was just waiting for a line” over and over again.


4. Solitaire in Windows 3.0. Solitaire was that classic boring card game that you played by yourself when the boss wasn’t looking. It’s funny because almost everyone who finds it strangely addictive admits that it is in fact a completely terrible game. But it sure was a good way to teach your grandpa how to use a mouse.


3. Contra. Everyone talks about the famous Contra code that you entered during the startup screen to begin with 30 men but few people talk about how impossible this game was without the code. You had people shooting at you from all directions, you died after one bullet, and you started the game with only three lives. Even with the spray gun you probably only ran for about twenty seconds before getting shot and calling it quits. So basically, Contra taught us that bullets are really dangerous and that’s why cheating is important.


2. Super Mario Bros. There are so many memories from this instant classic, like the creepy music in World 1-2, the warp zone, the hammer brothers, the flying fish, and the first time you ever heard the phrase: “Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!”


1. Super Mario Bros 3. Fred Savage helped Mario 3 launch to fame with the ninety-minute commercial known as The Wizard. Remember his catatonic little bro who just said ‘Cali-forn-yah’ the whole movie but eventually showed the world how to find the whistle? Yes, Mario 3 completely blew everything else away by introducing us to flying raccoons, angry suns, Tanooki and Frog suits, and that impossible Tube World. It was a larger than life video game that provided years of fun at birthday parties and sleepovers everywhere. For this last game, how about the original commercial instead of a clip? I believe it accurately captures how the world felt about this game.


Yes, playing old school video games was always a sure way to get sore thumbs, strained eyes, and a dry mouth. But would you trade anything for all those hours in front of the TV set exploring strange and exotic worlds with your friends? Yes, the sun would dip down, the lights would go off upstairs, the bowls of Doritos and cans of Pepsi would empty, but that bright, flickering light from the TV didn’t stop casting kaleidoscope shadows on the wide-eyed faces sitting three feet in front of them well into the night.

And those were some seriously good times, my friend.

Some seriously good times.


Ah, memories

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